iPod backlash as workers turn on and tune out

Oct 31 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

As a growing number of Britons plug into their iPods to tune out of office life, many employers are responding by trying to outlaw the ubiquitous devices from their offices.

Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of office workers in the UK are spending up to three hours a day listening to music or podcasts on MP3 players at work, according to a survey conducted by workplace interiors experts, Woods Bagot London.

And this is in part simply to get some work done. In the past, workers would separate themselves with physical walls to concentrate on the task at hand. But with the evolution of the widely-disliked open plan office, the walls have come down. While this increases communication and visual interaction, it also adds distractions that make it increasingly difficult to concentrate on .

"By wearing the highly-visible, white headphones, they're also sending a signal to colleagues that they don't want to be bothered," says Woods Bagot's Simon Pole.

But although the MP3 player is the simplest way to create your own virtual office, it is also driving a wedge between the older generation and the iPod generation.

Meanwhile, three out of 10 UK offices have even gone so far as to ban MP3s from the workplace, a policy that many experts view as counter-productive.

"Employers are wrong to ban MP3 players from the workplace. It's crucial to give workers autonomy and bans of any sort can alienate workers," said Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University and co-author of Shut Up and Listen: The Truth About How to Communicate at Work.

"Bosses shouldn't care about how employees accomplish their objectives or if they want to engrossed themselves in MP3 players Ė as long as the job gets done."

Siumon Pole agrees.

"Bans are more likely to isolate workers than affect real change. Creating better work environments that encourage a company culture of interaction and teamwork is the only way to get more workers tuned into team work and not their iPod".